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Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement

Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement
© Camille Fine

President Trump expressed appreciation for work on a bipartisan ObamaCare deal in a meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday but did not endorse the bill, multiple lawmakers said.

"He just encouraged us to continue to work on it. He made it clear that he appreciated what Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] was doing," Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming MORE (R-S.D.) said.

But Trump did not endorse the bill. "He just said continue to work on it," Rounds said.

A Senate GOP aide said Trump turned to Alexander in the lunch and said: “Thanks for your great work on health care. It’s good, it’s good."

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The bipartisan plan was crafted by Alexander and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee.

Senate Republicans have been looking to Trump for guidance on the bill, but the president has given mixed signals. 

The lunch on Tuesday does not appear to have cleared up confusion over whether Trump supports the measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEx-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Democrats slide in battle for Senate MORE (R-Ky.) said on Sunday that he would bring the bill up for a vote if Trump supported it.

The path forward was further complicated on Tuesday when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Congress should work with Trump and not 'cowboy' on Saudi Arabia, says GOP senator US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Some ObamaCare premiums to decrease next year | Sanders hits back at Trump over 'Medicare for all' | Panel to investigate rising maternal mortality rates House committee to investigate rising maternal mortality rates How the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch MORE (R-Texas) put forward their own, more conservative, rival bill. 

The Alexander-Murray bill aims to stabilize ObamaCare markets by funding payments to insurers for two years, in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. 

The Hatch-Brady bill would fund the payments but also repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate for five years, a nonstarter for Democrats.   

This story was updated at 3:22 p.m.